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A few days after Slobodan Milosevic appeared before a war-crimes court in The Hague this month, he asked his jailers to arrange a visit by a Canadian lawyer.

The request thrust 51-year-old Christopher Black under a global spotlight as chief legal adviser to one of the world's most notorious accused war criminals.

Far from being embarrassed, Mr. Black says he's eager to do what he can for the former Yugoslav president.

"This man is being railroaded for political reasons . . .," he said from his home in Richmond Hill, Ont. "I have seen no evidence that he, from a command responsibility point of view, is guilty of anything."

Mr. Black, a veteran criminal lawyer who ran in the last federal election as a candidate for the Communist Party of Canada, spent two hours with Mr. Milosevic, laying out his legal options.

Those included a challenge in the Dutch courts to the legitimacy of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which is trying Mr. Milosevic on charges of crimes against humanity.

The two men first met in Belgrade last March after Yugoslav authorities arrested the former president on domestic corruption charges. Mr. Black heads the legal arm of an international committee set up to defend Mr. Milosevic.

While most Canadians associated with the ICTY are working for the court or as prosecutors, Mr. Black maintains that the UN-sanctioned tribunal is illegal under international law.

He has attacked Madame Justice Louise Arbour of the Supreme Court of Canada for issuing the indictment of Mr. Milosevic in May, 1999, when she was the ICTY's chief prosecutor. It bolstered flagging support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's bombing of Yugoslavia, he said.

Mr. Black was one of several Canadian lawyers who sought unsuccessfully to have Judge Arbour or her successor, Carla del Ponte of Switzerland, bring war-crimes charges against NATO leaders, including Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

He said he was disappointed in Judge Arbour, who taught him criminal law at Toronto's Osgoode Hall Law School in the 1970s.

"We all thought that she would have enough integrity to do something," he said.

Mr. Black is already defending another accused war criminal facing charges of genocide at a parallel UN tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania.

Long a supporter of leftist causes, Mr. Black joined the Communist Party of Canada in 1998 after becoming convinced the West was determined to crush Mr. Milosevic's Yugoslavia. "It was the only party that took a principled position on developments in the Balkans," he said.

People's Voice, the party newspaper, published his poem Smiling Carnivores, which described Canadian political and business figures as "wasteland dogs, with snouts full of blood and torment . . . a pack of flunkies and well-paid hoodlums."

Because of his knowledge of the Balkans, the party chose Mr. Black to run in last year's election in Toronto's York Centre riding, pitting him against Defence Minister Art Eggleton, who oversaw Canada's participation in the NATO campaign.

Mr. Black polled 161 votes to Mr. Eggleton's 24,537. He said he missed most of the campaign because of the pressure of the work and because he contracted malaria while in Arusha.

Because Mr. Milosevic does not recognize the tribunal, Mr. Black is acting only as legal adviser to the former president and paying his own expenses. But Mr. Black said Serbs living in Canada and elsewhere are trying to raise funds to help cover his costs and those of other lawyers. So far, he hasn't received anything.

Mr. Milosevic was expansive when they met, he said -- offering him cigarettes, reviewing the past 10 decades of Balkan history and denying the charges against him.

Mr. Milosevic told him that every Yugoslav soldier carried a card laying out his responsibilities under the Geneva conventions, and added that 500 troops were arrested for violating regulations.

"The Americans never did that in Vietnam," Mr. Black quoted the former Yugoslav leader as saying.

Mr. Black said he is against all international efforts to try former leaders -- even right-wingers such as former Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet -- because global politics will always determine who is brought to justice.

"They should be tried by their own people in their own countries," he said.

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